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Title:Children's metajudgments in theory choice tasks: An investigation of scientific rationality in childhood
Author(s):Samarapungavan, Ala
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Brewer, William F.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Educational Psychology
Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:The aim of this research was to explore the knowledge acquisition process in natural science domains. Recently, there has been much debate on the utility of the "child-as-scientist" metaphor as a way of characterizing children's knowledge acquisition. Proponents of the child-as-scientist approach ascribe apparent differences in child and adult thinking in science domains to differences in knowledge rather than to differences in underlying reasoning processes. However, critics of this view claim that children differ from scientists in that they lack certain metacognitive competencies that characterize mature scientific reasoning.
This research examined whether children could use such metaconceptual criteria as the range of explanation, non ad-hocness of explanation, empirical consistency, and logical consistency to choose from among competing accounts of physical phenomena. Children's ability to apply the metaconceptual criteria was examined in a series of theory choice tasks. The tasks were constructed so that the conceptual content of the theories to be evaluated was either compatible, incompatible, or neutral with regard to children's prior knowledge frameworks. The subjects were elementary school students from grades 1, 3, and 5.
It was found that even children in the first grade proved sensitive to the range, empirical consistency, and logical consistency of theories when the conceptual content of the theories did not violate their beliefs about the physical world. The youngest children were not sensitive to the ad-hocness of explanations but older children did prefer non ad hoc explanations to ad hoc ones. These findings are consistent with recent work in the philosophy of science showing that in evaluating theoretical alternatives, scientists are influenced by their prior beliefs about the domain being considered. The findings support the view that many apparent differences in the thinking of children and adults stem from difference in knowledge rather than reasoning. They also demonstrate that young children share some of the cognitive underpinnings of scientific rationality that scientists do.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Samarapungavan, Ala
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9026313
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9026313

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